Venezuela is in a state of violence. The capitalist opposition led by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition is trying to remove president Nicolas Maduro from power. After winning the parliamentary elections in late 2015, MUD won a majority in the Venezuelan parliament. The leftist populist: United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) lost millions of voters, because it failed to build socialism in the nine years that it ruled the country. The opposition is mobilizing its supporters, playing on the desperation of poor working class people as the economy remains in crisis. Maduro’s failure to move his country into a socialist direction is fueling a counterrevolution. Therefore the Boliviarian Revolution is at a crossroad. Its survival will depend on the will of its supporters to build genuine socialism!
Capitalist commentators and news outlets call the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela a ‘’socialist’’ dictatorship. The opposition is already calling Nicolas Maduro a ‘’Cuban communist’’ style dictator. Now it is true that the president has become more authoritarian and the state is using police brutality to silence protestors. However we must not ignore that the opposition is just as violent. They want to return all economic and state power to the capitalist class. This you don’t hear them saying, but MUD is made up of political parties that act as vehicles for the ruling class. Despite 18 years of Chavismo, the government of Venezuela under Chavez and Maduro never abolished capitalism. Their Bolivarian Revolution stagnated with the inability of Hugo Chavez to move beyond a mixture of capitalism with social democracy, leftist populism and state intervention in the economy!
Revolutionary socialists understand that many working class people are very critical of the PSUV and the government. When Hugo Chavez founded the United Socialist Party of Venezuela in 2007, many Marxists hoped it would become a vehicle for workers, poor and youth. However Chavez wanted a political party that worked as his mouthpiece. The PSUV was to be his vehicle, not a worker’s party. Socialist critics of the growing cult of personality were soon confronted by party bureaucrats and expelled because they were critical of the ‘’Great Commander’’. The Democratic Unity Roundtable was founded a year later to unite the antisocialist (and pro-capitalist) opposition to the Chavez government!
Although MUD calls itself ‘’democratic’’ it is not a force for freedom. The opposition has grown more violent since 2016. This is not reported in the western capitalist media, who only portray Maduro’s use of force. Western viewers get a biased picture and will think that Venezuela is led by a ‘’socialist regime’’ that is using police brutality to attack ‘’innocent’’ protestors. Again, nothing is reported on the violence carried out by the supporters of MUD. Out of 108 people killed since the demonstrations began, only 13 were killed by security forces. 20 victims were murdered by the protestors, 8 people died indirectly due to opposition forces blocking streets and harming traffic. 14 were killed due to looting, 3 died as a result of pro-government supporters and 3 were killed by accident. The deaths of the remaining 47 people remain unaccounted for or are disputed!
But is the American and European media saying the only 13 protestors were killed by Maduro’s police forces? No, they say that over 100 people died since the demonstrations began. You get the picture that all victims were killed by the police while demonstrating against Maduro. This is simply not true. Yes, there is police brutality and this must be rejected. Also the actions of the government are ineffective and counterproductive. Worse, Nicolas Maduro is making deals with the capitalist establishment to carry out austerity cuts. Proofing his incompetence and inability to be president of a supposed ‘’socialist’’ country.
In the last 85 days, anti-Maduro mobs have been attacking buildings of the PSUV and supporters of Chavismo. This is also not reported by CNN and other western media outlets. They report stories on government supporters attacking the parliament and the politicians of MUD. Nothing is reported about MUD supporters lynching Chavez supporters in the streets. This is how the capitalist media of America and Europa tries to portray Venezuela as black/white issue. Revolutionary socialists reject the violence of the ruling class and we denounce MUD as a reactionary political force, disguised as a ‘’liberal democratic’’ coalition!
At the same time we give no political support to the government. We are not supporters of Nicolas Maduro nor his ineffective and deeply bureaucratic regime. But we are willing to defend the limited gains of the Chavez era. Because if MUD wins they will privatise wholly or partially the state owned oil company PDVSA, they would destroy labour rights currently enshrined in law, they would privatise social housing (the 1.6 million homes built and delivered by Mision Vivienda), they would privatise state-owned companies and return expropriated factories and landed estates to their former capitalist owners. This is what the opposition wants to do, this is why we must stand with the working class against the pseudo-Democratic Unity Roundtable. It is regrettable that many middle class workers have joined the opposition. They don’t understand how they play right into the hands of the rich and wealthy, who have waited 18 years for a counterrevolution to happen!
Socialists are implacably opposed to the reactionary offensive of the opposition as it represents a mortal threat to the Venezuelan workers and poor as well as to the gains of the Bolivarian revolution.
There are only two options out this hell for workers:
Option 1: A massive adjustment which makes the workers and the poor pay the price. This would involve freeing exchange rates, reducing the budget deficit through cuts and lifting any regulations and protections (workers’ rights, environmental rights, etc.) from the “normal” functioning of capitalism!
Option 2: Abolish the capitalist system by bringing banks, industries and the land into public ownership and democratic control, that is, to make the oligarchy pay. That would not bring the price of oil back up, of course, but at least it would put the country’s resources in the hands of working people!
Revolutionary socialists stand with option 2. But at the present time (July 2017) Nicolas Maduro remains paralyzed and unable to move either forward towards socialism or backward towards capitalism. Some actions made by Maduro seem to follow a path into the direction of option 1. We have seen this behaviour in Cuba too. Raúl Castro could have put the Cuban economy under democratic control of workers. But as leader of a centralized (and privileged) bureaucracy, he would never give away power to the working class. This is why Cuba moves towards option 1, because the Communist Party of Cuba does not want to give up power. It also wishes to embrace the capitalist world market, like China and Vietnam!
Maduro’s government has chosen a policy which does not advance towards socialism but also does not fully allow the functioning of the capitalist market. It makes all sorts of concessions to the capitalists, but these are not enough for them. They want a full return the situation as it was before 1999, before Hugo Chavez. Back then the absolute poverty rate stood at 23% of the total population. 9,5 million Venezeulans were living in shaks and had no access to basic human needs. A very small minority was living in absolute wealth. Enjoying millions in oil profits that were given to them by a corrupt capitalist state. Chavez ended this and the ruling class never forgave him!
The biggest mistake the Bolivarian Revolution made was their believe that they could build a fair and just society under capitalism, with the ruling class ‘’controlled’’ by laws. This proofed to be disastrous because with the economic crisis starting in 2014, the politicians of the ruling class were able to portray themselves as ‘’fighters for the poor and weak’’. Since many social security programs have been stalled or abandoned due to a lack of funds, poverty has been growing. This is exploited by MUD who has won the support of millions. They even won support among leftists who feel disillusioned by the supposed ”failure of socialism”. We must not deny that there is a crisis, that poor people are getting hit the hardest. Maduro cannot wait any longer, either he abandons price controls and returns economic power to the so called ”free market”, or he moves beyond capitalism and the dictatorship of the ruling class. Venezuela has been in a state of limbo far too long!
Meanwhile, oil and corruption have been working hand in hand ever since it was discovered in Venezuela. The government is deeply corrupt and this has not been improved nor destroyed by Chavez. In fact both Chavez and Maduro used corruption to win the support from the army and state bureaucracy. The military is kept loyal with high salaries and certain ‘’benefits’’. Like the privileged members of the Communist Party of Cuba, bureaucrats in Venezuela are also bribed for loyalty to the presidency. MUD calls the government out on this corruption, but we know that it is an empty outcry. Under a full MUD administration corruption will not die out!
Will the PSUV and Maduro be overthrown? Not if the working class comes to its defence. Unless Maduro turns into a socialist direction the future looks very dark for him. A full civil war is possible if some army units decide to join the opposition. To prevent this Venezuela needs a socialist plan out of the crisis. It requires the full expropriation of all millionaires (who fund MUD) and a brake with the capitalist system. The wealth of Venezuela must be fully controlled by revolutionary activists, the workers, the peasants and the poor. No privileges to army officials or government bureaucrats. No compromises with the capitalist class!!